SRCCON 2016 proposals: building a data community and embracing the arts

Since I’ll be in the country this time around, I’m hoping to attend my first SRCCON this summer in Portland. Here’s a brief description from the organizers, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews:

SRCCON is a hands-on conference focused on the practical challenges news technology and data teams encounter every day. We work to make it an inclusive and welcoming event where people can feel comfortable digging into complex problems.

Here are the pitches:

Comm Together: How can we build and maintain a data/tech/code community in each of our organizations?
Proposed by Julia B. Chan and Greg Linch

Teams within an organization are usually pretty structured. One group might share a common focus, office space and manager. But communities are a much more fluid–they move beyond the designated org chart lines and boundaries drawn by the company. Some of the best collaboration in news and tech comes when different specialities mix. Whether you’re a lonely coder or on a large news app team, how do you build and sustain a community of data- and tech-oriented journalists within your organization? What kind of obstacles does this internal community face?

  • How do you help everyone level-up, including yourself?
  • How do you make sure knowledge and skills aren’t concentrated among a small group–or just one person?
  • How do you get management buy-in for cross-pollination type training push back against training bc of timing on both sides?
  • How do you handle tension between a dedicated team and individuals doing similar work/working on a different part of the project?
  • How do you maintain momentum if there’s no institutional structure or the structure changes?

Can we come up with some solutions to these problems? We want to hear your experience and advice for internal community-building, even if it’s not directly related to data and tech. We’ll discuss all these topics, then break into small groups. Each group will have one item to expand on and contribute back to the session transcript. In the end, we’ll have an internal community-building guide to share.

Upgrade your LAMP stack to Literature, Art, Music, Poetry
Proposed by Greg Linch

“If [people] were able to be convinced that art is precise advance knowledge of how to cope with the psychic and social consequences of the next technology, would they all become artists?” Marshall McLuhan wrote in Understanding Media. Should we all become artists? I seriously thought about it last year. Here’s why: Whether we use text, images, graphics or code to tell stories, we deal with symbols, images, abstractions and interpretations every day. Journalism’s history is basically one of integrating new disciplines, techniques and technologies to more effectively tell stories. Lately, and especially for the data/tech community in news, that’s involved stats, social science, computer science and other quantitative- or science-oriented fields. Although we should continue to do this vigorously, we equally need to embrace the arts. And not just from a visual or design standpoint, but the ideas that underlie and advance art. In doing this, we can also see how seemingly disparate things correspond: cubism and physics, concrete poetry and GUIs, conceptual art and algorithms. We’ll explore these and other ways the analog humanities can help us think about digital media from technical and humanistic perspectives–going everywhere from abstraction and to Afrofuturism.

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